Glossary

Term

Definition

Acromegaly

A disease caused when a tumour on the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone.

Adenohypophysis

An alternative name for the anterior pituitary gland.

Adipose tissue

Fatty tissue, as opposed to muscle.

Adrenal glands

These are glands, which are situated just above the kidneys, which produce various hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline.

Adrenalectomy

An operation to remove the adrenal glands.

Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone

This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and tells the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

Amenorrhoea

Absence of menstrual periods.

Androgens

The group of male sex hormones, which includes testosterone.

Anti-diuretic hormone

A hormone that the pituitary gland sends to your kidneys to limit the volume of urine produced. It is also known as vasopressin.

Apoplexy

Pituitary apoplexy is a rare condition that usually results from problems with the blood supply to, or within, a pituitary tumour. If this occurs, part or all of the tumour may be damaged through lack of oxygen (pituitary infarction) and there may be associated bleeding into the gland.

Benign tumour

A growth which is not cancerous.

Bromocriptine

A drug used to reduce the levels of both growth hormone and prolactin.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Tingling and sometimes weakness of the hands due to compression of the nerve at the wrist. This is often worse at night. This symptom disappears once treatment has lowered your level of growth hormone.

Cerebrospinal fluid

The watery fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord and also circulates within the ventricles of the brain and the central canal of the cord.

Circadian rhythm

Also called diurnal rhythm - a regular pattern following a 24 hour cycle. The body's natural release of some hormones, including testosterone, follows such a pattern.

Cortisol

One of the main hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol controls a number of functions and is particularly important in times of illness and stress.

Craniopharyngioma

Tumour filled with a thick fluid, calcium and cysts that grow from birth against the hypothalamus and sometimes against the pituitary gland. Incidence is 1% of adult tumours and 9% of those occurring in children. Often needing drainage of the tumour, craniotomy (hairline surgery) and radiotherapy, plus appropriate hormone replacement.

Cushing's disease

The symptoms of Cushing's when caused by a tumour of the pituitary gland.

Cushing's syndrome

The symptoms of Cushing's when caused by a tumour at a location other than the pituitary gland.

DDAVP

This is the trade name for the desmopressin nasal drops and tablets.

Desmopressin

This is the generic name for medication of the type to which Desmospray and DDAVP belong.

Desmospray

This is the trade name for desmopressin nasal spray.

Diabetes Insipidus

A condition characterised by great thirst and the constant need to pass urine.

Endocrine system

The body-wide system of hormone-producing glands, and the hormones they make, which control many aspects of life, including growth and reproduction.

Endocrinologist

A doctor who specialises in treatment of diseases of the endocrine system.

Follicle-stimulating hormone

This sex hormone (gonadotrophin) contributes to sexual development of children. In women, together with LH, it controls ovulation and is thus essential for a normal menstrual cycle and for fertility. In men, with LH, it stimulates the testes to produce sperm.

Galactorrhoea

Abnormal milk secretion from the breasts.

Gigantism

A condition caused by production of too much growth hormone during childhood, before growth is complete. It causes people to grow much taller than they would otherwise have done.

Gonadotrophin releasing hormone

The hormone that controls production of luteinising hormone and follicle stimulating hormone in the pituitary gland.

Gonadotrophins

This is a collective term for the sex hormones FSH and LH, which are hormones produced by the pituitary gland. They stimulate the ovaries or testicles.

Gonads

The reproductive organs - ovaries in a woman, testes (testicles) in a man.

Growth hormone

A hormone produced by the pituitary gland which controls rate of growth. It is mainly produced while you are asleep. Even after growth has ceased, growth hormone has important effects during adult life.

Gynaecomastia

Enlargement of breast tissue in the male.

Hydrocortisone

A drug which replaces the natural hormone cortisol.

Hyperprolactinaemia

Overproduction of the hormone prolactin.

Hypogonadism

Deficiency of sex hormone secretion. This can either be primary, due to a disorder of the testes or ovaries, or secondary when due to disease of the pituitary or hypothalamus.

Hyponatraemia

This occurs when the blood becomes too dilute. It can lead to headaches and feeling generally unwell. With DI it is likely to mean your desmopressin dose is not correct. You should see your doctor if this occurs.

Hypophysis

An alternative name for the pituitary gland.

Hypophysitis

A condition resulting in inflammation of the pituitary gland (hypophysis). Variations include Granulomatous Hypophysitis, Lymphocytic Hypophysitis and Tuberculosis Hypophysitis.

Hypothalamus

The part of the brain which controls the pituitary gland.

Hypothyroidism

Underactivity of the thyroid gland. This condition is sometimes caused by a pituitary problem.

Idiopathic

Of unknown origin.

Infundibulum

An alternative name for the pituitary stalk, which connects the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.

Insulin-like Growth Factor-1

The levels of IGF-I in the blood are controlled by GH, and IGF-I can be used to measure how active your acromegaly is.

Intramuscular injection

An injection deep into the muscle, as opposed to under the skin.

Lanreotide

A somatostatin analogue used to reduce levels of growth hormone.

Leydig cells

Cells in the testicles that produce most of a man's testosterone.

Luteinising hormone

This sex hormone contributes to sexual development of children. In women, together with FSH, it controls ovulation and is thus essential for a normal menstrual cycle and for fertility. In men, with FSH, it stimulates the testes to produce sperm.

Macroprolactinoma

A prolactin-secreting pituitary tumour which is more than 10mm ( inch) in diameter.

Microprolactinoma

A prolactin-secreting pituitary tumour which is less than 10mm ( inch) in diameter.

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1

This is a rare inherited condition in which affected individuals tend to develop tumours of the pituitary gland.

Neurohypophysis

An alternative name for the posterior pituitary gland.

Non-functioning tumour

A tumour which does not produce any of the pituitary hormones.

Octreotide

A somatostatin analogue used to reduce levels of growth hormone.

Oestrogen

Female sex hormone, which is produced by the ovaries.

Oligomenorrhoea

Abnormally infrequent menstrual periods. Often the interval between periods exceeds 40 days.

Optic Nerve Hypoplasia

Rare congenital underdevelopment of the midline of the brain affecting sight, and sometimes producing hypopituitarism, diabetes insipidus, and possible failure of the adrenal and thyroid glands.

Osteoporosis

Thinning of the bones with increased risk of bone fracture. The condition is associated with deficiency of oestrogen or testosterone. Osteopenia is the term given to milder bone thinning, less severe than osteoporosis.

Parlodel

The brand name of bromocriptine.

Pituitary gland

A gland, as small as a pea, located at the base of the brain. It produces hormones, which in turn control the hormone production of many other glands in the body.

Pituitary tumour

A tumour, almost always non-cancerous, of the pituitary gland.

Progesterone

Female sex hormone, which is produced by the ovaries.

Prolactin

A hormone often called the 'milk hormone' because its main function is to stimulate the breasts after childbirth. However, men also have prolactin, although the function of this hormone in males is not clear.

Prolactinoma

A pituitary tumour which produces prolactin. This can be a microprolactinoma or macroprolactinoma.

Radiotherapy

Treatment with X-rays.

Recombinant human GH

Synthetically produced growth hormone, which has the same structure as natural human growth hormone.

Sandostatin

The brand name of octreotide.

Septo Optic Dysplasia

Rare congenital underdevelopment of the midline of the brain affecting sight, and sometimes producing hypopituitarism, diabetes insipidus, and possible failure of the adrenal and thyroid glands.

Sex hormones

Luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) are produced by the pituitary gland and stimulate the ovaries to produce oestrogen (in women) and testosterone (in men).

Short stature

Often due to underproduction of growth hormone.

Sleep apnoea

A condition in which you stop breathing for a few moments while asleep. This causes poor quality sleep such that you wake in the morning with a headache and still feeling tired, and can result in you falling asleep during the day. The partners of sufferers typically complain they are bad snorers. Sleep apnoea is a common disorder in patients with acromegaly.

Somatostatin

A naturally occurring hormone that reduces GH release from the pituitary gland. Man-made modified versions of somatostatin are known as somatostatin analogues.

Somatotrophin

Growth hormone.

Somatuline LA

The brand name of lanreotide.

Subcutaneous injection

An injection under the skin, as opposed to deeper into the muscle.

Tall stature

A condition caused by production of too much growth hormone during childhood, before growth is complete. It causes people to grow much taller than they would otherwise have done. This condition is also known as gigantism.

Testosterone

The main sex hormone in men, produced by the testes.

Thyroid Gland

A gland which lies over the windpipe and just below the larynx. It produces hormones that are essential to numerous body processes.

Thyroid stimulating hormone

A hormone which your pituitary sends to your thyroid gland to stimulate the production of thyroxine.

Thyrotrophin

Thyroid stimulating hormone.

Thyroxine

A hormone produced by the thyroid gland.

Transsphenoidal surgery

A method of operating on the pituitary gland by making an incision in front of the upper teeth and behind the upper lip, or sometimes through the nose.

Vasopressin

A hormone released by the pituitary gland, which acts on the kidney to conserve body fluids. It is also known as anti-diuretic hormone (ADH).